Page 1 of 2 1 2 Last
Results 1 to 10 of 52

Hybrid View

Previous Post Previous Post   Next Post Next Post
  1. Senior Member
    Student or Learner
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Russian
      • Home Country:
      • Russian Federation
      • Current Location:
      • Russian Federation

    • Join Date: Nov 2018
    • Posts: 566
    #1

    I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Jutfrank, I would appreciate it if you would clarify for me some things:

    1. On the one hand you consider "a blackbird" in "I saw a blackbird" a referring expression. On the other hand, you argue that "a book" in "I've read a book" is non-referential.

    I've started reading the book you suggested ("The semantics of definite and indefinite noun phrases" by Irene Heim). To be honest, I can barely understand 25-30% of the text: too much symbolic logic, too many terms and long complex sentences. It would be difficult even in Russian. But some paragraphs are quite clear. She mentions Kripke's approach. He distinguishes two types of reference: semantic and speaker's:"No utterance of an indefinite has semantic reference. But this does not mean that no such utterance has speaker’s reference. Whether there is speaker’s reference and what the speaker’s referent is depends on the intentions that the speaker of the utterance happens to have. The speaker’s referent is that individual which the speaker “wishes to talk about” (or “has in mind”) on the occasion of the utterance. The notion applies to utterances of indefinites as follows."

    Surprisingly, I distinguish these two types of indefinite NPs' reference too:

    You:Tell me everything you already know about why we use indefinite articles.
    Me: 1) A thing represents an instance of a class/set of objects. The speaker has a certain image of the object in his mind, but the listener doesn’t: “I have a car (= a certain object belonging to the class of cars).” In terms of Kripke's approach, this is speaker's reference.
    a) The thing is mentioned for the first time = unknown and/or unidentifiable to the listener.
    b) The thing is mentioned more the once, but its indefiniteness is maintained for the sake of logic and semantics:
    “I have a car” - “What car?” - “A fast one (= a certain, known only to me example belonging to the set of fast cars).”

    2) A thing represents an instance of a class/set of objects. The speaker doesn’t have a certain image of the object in his mind: “I need a car (= any object belonging to the class of cars).”
    In terms of Kripke's approach, there is no semantic or speaker's reference here.
    a) The thing is mentioned for the first time = unknown and/or unidentifiable to the listener.
    b) The thing is mentioned more the once, but its indefiniteness is maintained due to its genericness:
    “I need a car” - “Why do you need a car?” - “I need a car because there is no public transport here.”

    3) A thing represents a whole class: “A lion is a dangerous animal.” It doesn't matter how many times it has been mentioned in this sense. Its indefiniteness is maintained due to its genericness.
    In terms of Kripke's approach, there is no semantic or speaker's reference here.

    2. You say "the book" in "I bring with me the book N gave me" is referential. At the same time, you allow for this book being: a) unknown to the listener, b) one of many books: "Even the use of a definite NP here does not allow the listener to conclude that jutfrank gave me only one book (although that is very likely the case). It could be that the purpose of reference here is to distinguish the book from other non-book items rather than from other books. In other words, the point of using 'the' could be just to point out this particular book, regardless of how many other books, if any, jutfrank gave me."

    This strikes me as unfathomable. In this case, "the book" is not so different from "a book". I mean if the book is one of many and hasn't been mentioned before/unknown to the listener, I see no reason for using "the" at all. There must be some good reason for pointing such a book out. The quotation above sounds as if the choice of article in this case depended only on the speaker's mood or subjective purposes, whereas many grammar books tell us it's necessary to take into consideration if the listener is aware of the thing we are talking about. I find it quite convincing and follow this advice. I never use articles randomly or intuitively and always have an explanation for myself. And I see only two reasons for using "the" in this case: the speaker already knows of the object or to let him/her know that there is only one book.

    As you can see, these are not just theoretical questions for me.

    Please correct me if my reconstruction of your statements is wrong.
    I hope this thread won't be too long. I believe 40-50 replies would be enough.
    Last edited by Alexey86; 29-Apr-2020 at 23:17. Reason: fixing a typo
    Not a teacher or native speaker

  2. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
    VIP Member
    Other
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Jan 2009
    • Posts: 7,244
    #2

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Have you tried clicking on Jutfrank's name to send him private messages? (I know it doesn't always work.)
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  3. Tarheel's Avatar
    VIP Member
    Interested in Language
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Jun 2014
    • Posts: 20,666
    #3

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Alexy, you and jutfrank like those really long posts. That makes two of you.

    Frankly, I'm doubtful about how much good that does.
    Not a professional teacher

  4. jutfrank's Avatar
    VIP Member
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Mar 2014
    • Posts: 12,597
    #4

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarheel View Post
    Alexy, you and jutfrank like those really long posts. That makes two of you.


    I'm dedicating the next one to you, Tarheel.

  5. Senior Member
    Student or Learner
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Russian
      • Home Country:
      • Russian Federation
      • Current Location:
      • Russian Federation

    • Join Date: Nov 2018
    • Posts: 566
    #5

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    Have you tried clicking on Jutfrank's name to send him private messages?
    Other members' opinions are also welcome.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarheel View Post
    Alexy, you and jutfrank like those really long posts. That makes two of you.

    Frankly, I'm doubtful about how much good that does.
    I wouldn't say that I like long posts. It just happens that way.
    Not a teacher or native speaker

  6. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
    VIP Member
    Other
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Jan 2009
    • Posts: 7,244
    #6

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    Other members' opinions are also welcome. . . .
    If you address them just one person, just one will answer.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  7. Senior Member
    Student or Learner
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Russian
      • Home Country:
      • Russian Federation
      • Current Location:
      • Russian Federation

    • Join Date: Nov 2018
    • Posts: 566
    #7

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    If you address them just one person, just one will answer.
    Now, I'm addressing all members.
    Not a teacher or native speaker

  8. jutfrank's Avatar
    VIP Member
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Mar 2014
    • Posts: 12,597
    #8

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    I wouldn't say that I like long posts. It just happens that way.
    Believe it or not, I try very hard to keep them as short as possible.

  9. jutfrank's Avatar
    VIP Member
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Mar 2014
    • Posts: 12,597
    #9

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    1. On the one hand you consider "a blackbird" in "I saw a blackbird" a referring expression. On the other hand, you argue that "a book" in "I've read a book" is non-referential.
    Don't let this contradiction puzzle you. In the other post that you're referring to, my aim was to explain things very simply. I certainly wasn't going to even mention this complicated question there.

    [Kripke] distinguishes two types of reference: semantic and speaker's
    Yes, that's a very good distinction, right? I think it's quite widely accepted these days.

    The speaker has a certain image of the object in his mind, but the listener doesnt: I have a car (= a certain object belonging to the class of cars). In terms of Kripke's approach, this is speaker's reference.
    Yes.

    I need a car (= any object belonging to the class of cars). In terms of Kripke's approach, there is no semantic or speaker's reference here.
    Well, there's no speaker's reference. Whether Kripke thinks there's semantic reference is not clear. I don't think he would commit either way. I'll try to check up on this point. Russell would certainly say there isn't.

    A lion is a dangerous animal. In terms of Kripke's approach, there is no semantic or speaker's reference here.
    As above, I'm not sure what Kripke would say as to whether there is semantic reference. I agree that there is no speaker reference.

    2. You say "the book" in "I bring with me the book N gave me" is referential. At the same time, you allow for this book being: a) unknown to the listener, b) one of many books
    Yes.

    This strikes me as unfathomable. In this case, "the book" is not so different from "a book". I mean if the book is one of many and hasn't been mentioned before/unknown to the listener, I see no reason for using "the" at all. There must be some good reason for pointing such a book out. The quotation above sounds as if the choice of article in this case depended only on the speaker's mood or subjective purposes, whereas many grammar books tell us it's necessary to take into consideration if the listener is aware of the thing we are talking about. I find it quite convincing and follow this advice. I never use articles randomly or intuitively and always have an explanation for myself. And I see only two reasons for using "the" in this case: the speaker already knows of the object or to let him/her know that there is only one book.
    Okay, I see what you're saying, and it's all very reasonable. In response, I'd say that although the use of the does depend very much on whether the speaker knows that the hearer
    is aware of the existence of the referent, it does not depend entirely on such knowledge.

    We quite frequently use definite noun phrases when the hearer is unaware of the existence of their referents, such as when mentioning them for the first time. The act of referring to them is a way of introducing their existence to the hearer. I don't think your example about the book is a good example to illustrate this, however, so here are some different examples:

    You're a guest in my house and I say this to you:

    The supermarket's closed so we'll have to get a pizza delivered.

    It's not necessary that you know which supermarket I'm talking about. Maybe this is your first time at my house and you have no idea about the neighbourhood where I live. You have been completely unaware of the existence of the supermarket up until that point. Part of the information that you can now gather from my utterance is that there is a supermarket. It's also possible, (in fact, quite likely) that there exist other supermarkets in the area, but that, for whatever reason, I have made no mention of them. There could be many imaginable reasons for that. Does that make sense?

    Another, literary, example. Imagine this as the first line of a novel:

    The old man put on his rubber gloves and locked all the doors of the house.

    The writer is beginning to introduce the character to the reader. This use of the cataphoric reference here is a literary device. It's not uncommon. It doesn't mean that there are no other men in the story.

    Anyway, despite these examples, it's a pretty good rule of thumb to say that we don't usually refer to something with the if we think the hearer is unaware of the referent's existence, and also to say that we very often use the when the referent is in some sense unique. But neither of these conditions are necessary for specific reference to be made.

    Have I understood what you're asking?


  10. Senior Member
    Student or Learner
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Russian
      • Home Country:
      • Russian Federation
      • Current Location:
      • Russian Federation

    • Join Date: Nov 2018
    • Posts: 566
    #10

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Have I understood what you're asking?
    Yes, you have. But your examples are quite different from mine. I'm familiar with them but didn't mention so as not to complicate things and for the sake of brevity (sounds funny, right?). But I think it's time to analyze them.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    The old man put on his rubber gloves and locked all the doors of the house. The writer is beginning to introduce the character to the reader. This use of the cataphoric reference here is a literary device. It's not uncommon. It doesn't mean that there are no other men in the story.
    This example perfectly illustrates what I call "a good reason": via this literary device the writer immerses readers into the old man's life from the beginning as if they already knew him and what happened earlier. So, the choice of article here is not a whim, it is essential for creating the right atmosphere. Returning to my "book" example, there is no cataphoric reference there. It's not a joke or a piece of poetry, just an ordinary utterance.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    The supermarket's closed so we'll have to get a pizza delivered. It's not necessary that you know which supermarket I'm talking about. It's also possible, (in fact, quite likely) that there exist other supermarkets in the area
    This is a well-known example of using "the" with an object that can be objectively non-unique and unfamiliar to the listener. The list goes on: the hospital, the church, the bank, the dentist, the gym and so on. Since the case is very common, many learners have asked for an explanation. Happily, there are some:

    1) The reference shifts from physical objects/locations to their functions and people's activity there.
    2) The speaker means the nearest place or the one he/she visits routinely.
    3) In a given situation there is/was only one supermarket/bank at hand. (I added it after Tarheel replied)

    Each of these or their combination is a good reason for using "the". If you change it to "a/an" the utterance will sound unidiomatic, which is not the case in the "book" example, right?

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Part of the information that you can now gather from my utterance is that there is a supermarket.
    That's the point! I also get some extra information I mentioned above in 1-3).

    So, the whole discussion can be effectively boiled down to one simple question: what might be a good reason for using "the" in my example, if the book is unknown to the listener and non-unique? By "reason" I mean context forcing the speaker to use "the".
    Last edited by Alexey86; 30-Apr-2020 at 18:57. Reason: fixing a typo, adding a sentence
    Not a teacher or native speaker

Page 1 of 2 1 2 Last

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •